Sunday, February 13, 2005

Valentine's Day: The Next Generation

Mermaid Girl's preschool, thank ye gods and anti-bias curriculum, doesn't fuss about the holidays. No Christmas tree decorations (with or without token Menorah cutouts thrown in), no Easter bunnies, no handprint Thanksgiving turkeys. So V-day has been low-key in the past.

Last year, however, one or two shiny miniscule mass-produced valentines did show up in MG's take-home folder, much to her delight. The most prized one--signed in her very own hand!--from the girl who was then the oldest Dragonfly (since moved on to greener kindergartenian pastures). This year, being a Dragonfly parent myself, I took it into my head that MG had a certain pay-it-forward obligation to at least give cards to some of the kids she's closest to. So ensued the following tragicomedy:

Late January: Briefly consider creating homemade valentines with Mermaid Girl: red cutout hearts, stickers, lacy doilies. Scrap idea after looking at packed calendar and considering MG's attention span and fine-motor development; just writing names on prepackaged cards will be enough of a project.

February 2, early evening: On a pre-dinner trip to Fred Meyers, drop MG at playroom and scour the Seasonal aisle for acceptable valentines. Push past towering piles of Sc00by Doo, Disn3y Pr1incess, Sp1derman, assorted saccharine-sweet themes, and seemingly endless varieties of Br4tz cards (3D hologram, tattoo, naked--hah! just kidding!) to find one box of Eye Spy and one relatively inoffensive set of He11o K1tty. Swing back to playroom and present both boxes to MG for her choice. Surprise! (not) She chooses Kitty. I briefly consider buying Eye Spy as well, just for backup, but figure there are plenty of cards in just the one box.

February 2, after dinner: Much excitement about the valentines. With our help, MG enthusiastically compiles a list of everyone she wants to give them to: friends from school, closest friends outside of school, baby cousin, grandparents, Little Latke. I write up the list in block letters so she can use it to write each recipient's name herself. I perforate the sheets and she sorts through the individual cards, cooing over all the cute little pastel kitty designs and insisting on taking one to keep for herself. No problem; there are 32 cards. We are rich in cards! And in time. There's more than a week to work on them. For once, we planned ahead! We're so good.

February 3-12: Valentines? What valentines? We have busy lives, you know.

February 13:

4 PM: RW and Mermaid Girl are out at a friend's. I remember the valentines, then think, Well, she can work on them tonight.

5:45 PM: I'm on the other phone with a friend when RW calls: they're invited to stay for dinner, do I mind? No, no, of course not, go ahead.

6:00 PM: Oh, sh*t! The valentines!

7:55 PM: RW and Mermaid Girl return home. They've already thought about the valentines: it's no problem, MG will just write them while she eats her dessert cookie.

8 PM: While MG engages in an elaborate show of cookie-eating and milk-drinking, I read aloud an abridged version of the list we came up with in the first heady flush of planning: no grandparents, no cousins, just the school friends she mentioned. We don't have time to mess around. She chooses one friend. I circle the name, help her figure out how to make the letters (it's a short name, thank goodness). She writes the name slowly and painstakingly. She freezes when she gets to her own name: the pressure! I make a dotted outline of the first letter for her--sometimes she gets it backwards. I fold the card in half, she pulls a heart sticker off the sheet to seal it, and we're on to the next card. This will be just fine.

8:15 PM: Three valentines down. First crying meltdown of the evening, brought on when I absent-mindedly seal one of the cards myself instead of letting MG do it. Fortunately, the heart sticker comes off easily.

8:45 PM: Eight valentines down: "Write my name for me, Mommy! Please!" [curling up in my lap] "This is a lot of work for one little child!"

9:10 PM: Thirteen valentines down. MG has a breakdown halfway through the fourteenth. "You could stop, you know, you don't have to do cards for everyone," I say. "No!" she insists. "If he sees the other kids have one, his feelings will be hurt!" We agree to take a short sanity-restoring break while she puts on her pajamas.

9:15 PM: RW and I try unsuccessfully to convince MG that she can stop after the next card, since she doesn't know most of the other kids that well. She is affronted: "I know all the preschoolers!"

9:20 PM: A pajama'ed Mermaid Girl and I come up with a plan: she will do one more card in her own hand, for one of her best friends at school, and I will address and sign the half-dozen others in her name after she tells me who should get each one. Most of them are for younger kids who won't care as much who actually wrote them, anyway. And we'll still have plenty left to send belatedly to friends and relations.

9:30 PM: With all cards addressed and signed by either Mermaid Girl or me, and with RW on bedtime duty, I count up the completed valentines and realize that the kids Mermaid Girl has listed constitute most of the preschool, and that if only the few she didn't mention are omitted they may, in fact, feel bad. (The take-home folders are at adult height, so it's not like the kids would be looking through them. But still, if almost everyone gets a valentine, the few who don't might notice.) Belatedly, I look through the preschool directory, and discover 10 kids who were left off her list. With a sinking feeling in my gut, I count the remaining He11o K1tty cards. There are eight left.

9:40 PM: back at Fred Meyers, in the depleted Valentine's aisle, which now shares space with the newly-stocked Easter section. He11o Kitty is long gone, as is Eye Spy. I survey the remaining boxes, muttering curses. A giggly, carefree young couple in their mid-20's swings by: she's in the cart, he's pushing. They offer advice: "Well," she observes, "there's lots of Br4tz cards left." I shudder and make an involuntary noise. "Yeah," she agrees. "I don't like them either. They're like little prostitutes, aren't they?"

10:10 PM: Mermaid Girl is in bed. I show RW what I unearthed. We junk the sappy Pr3cious Moments cards and go with the puppies-and-kittens themed box. I sort the cards, looking for the vaguest, least-committing messages: "be mine!" and "friends forever" cards don't seem appropriate, considering she doesn't even know she's giving these; I wouldn't want to lead some poor 3-year-old on...or am I being too literal?

10:30 PM: Done. Valentines in a big envelope to take to MG's school in the morning. Leftover cards left on the table so we can continue the torture tomorrow evening, with the belated cards for friends and relations.

Happy Day, all.


Blogger Third Street said...

I may have to publish this one too.

5:10 AM  
Blogger heather said...

teehee. that was great!
happy vday and take a breather! :-)

8:08 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

The amazing thing is that we were doing almost exactly the same thing, AT THE SAME TIME! Wow! Blow by blow! Except we packed the kids off to bed and taped round red suckers to each card painstakingly until about 9:45, and we didn't have to go to the store again(phew!)

Like the kids would even notice! It's a massive Hallmark conspiracy.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Kate R said...

Sponge Bob Square Pants, on sale, 1.99 for 34.

Forced kid to write names, both of us forgot the little sticker to close 'em. Forced kid to get up to put them in the ripped box and toss them into the backpack.


Ten minutes tops.

Third child (and a boy) syndrome.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is agony. Maybe Ella will never have any friends. But what a good girl you have, remember receiving fewer valentines than someone else?


3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7-year-old Despaira announced at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 14 (she'd had a school holiday that day) that she had been planning to take valentines to school for her ENTIRE CLASS. I told her if she could make it happen all by herself in the half-an-hour before bed, fine with me... And she did, a little Paint job on the computer, color printer, paper cutter, Bob's your uncle. Your daughter is only going to get WORSE, I can promise you.

love, e wein

10:45 AM  

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